They came, they saw….but South African wine did the conquering. A week after the local wine industry hosted a few hundred international visitors at the Cape Wine 2022 showcase, as well as to a myriad satellite events throughout the winelands, the spacious breadth of time has allowed for a bit of hopefully lucid reflection.
The primary take-out, bigger than a Double Whopper and Cheese and more delightful than a Marsala Gatsby, is that, yes, nobody does it better than the South Africans when it comes to creating a spirited vibe for your wine industry. It was with warm-hearted glee that I saw and heard visitors from Japan, Sweden, the UK, America, Korea, Poland and Finland soaking-up the depth of the diverse offerings the South African wine industry laid-on. Not just laying it on, but inviting, charming and mesmerising the gathered vinions with great wine, gargantuan personalities, engaging stories, regional fingerprinting and lots, and lots of laughter. It was pure seduction of the above-the-belt-kind – as far as I know – and any of the visitors not leaving the Cape with a spring in his or her step and a rhythmically beating heart must have ice in the veins.
Whatever one could have wanted, it was there in the Cape Town International Convention Centre, ladled out over three sprawling days, not nearly enough time to take-it all in. Fine Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends and Pinot Noir, all and more. Bright and world-beating Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc… well, wherever you turned a corner a producer stood behind a stand confidently and keenly offering these splendid wares.
The complete multi-faceted display of Chenin Blanc, which many of the guests made a point to seek-out, stood high and tall, immensely proud. Clean and brisk co-operative Chenins vied for attention with freakily bumpy and gritty Old Vine, hipster numbers. Pinotage, and you would have to have cement in your tasting-buds not to taste and feel the way this variety has expanded its personality. Celebrating its firm tannin and precise fruit-core, the offerings have leapt to include fresher and sprightly offerings announcing the will to captivate the tastes of drinkers chasing lighter, fun-filled frivolous wines from this signature South African variety.
On-and-on we can go about the ranges of wines and the dynamic personalities of their makers that kept the hall pumping for eight hours daily.
Came the night and the setting sun, Cape Wine moved to various venues in and around the city, where industry groupings hosted delegates to a smorgasbord of events offering wine and personal engagements in a variety of appropriate settings. Chardonnay Forum showed finesse and elegance with a dinner in the Mount Nelson, ending with Negronis and vodka tonic in the Planet Bar. Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective went up Pot Luck Club way, curated small plate eats accompanied with a selection of Cabernet, red and juicy, elegant and truly world class.
Piwosa offered a gig at the Zeitz Mocca Museum, kicking off at 22:00, with live Motown music leading a boisterous party to the beat of the members’ wines. And so it went.
A personal highlight was the sunset-visit offered by the WWF Biodiversity Champions who showed an enamoured crowd around the glories of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a true Cape jewel now resplendent in flowering fynbos, Cape Sugarbirds flittering between King Proteas, and the cool dusk air silent as those present had their collective breaths taken away.
The latter should, actually, have been a compulsory event and presented at the beginning of Cape Wine. Besides the Kirstenbosch event, the overall Sustainability 360 theme fell somewhat flat. Speakers during the opening of this international wine showcase failed to come to the party, with only António Amorim grasping the Cape Wine brief to provide thoughtful and influential context to the theme of sustainability, as shown here.
This being the most talked-about and concern-evoking subject in the wine world, Cape Wine could have grabbed global imagination by offering a platform to newsworthy personalities from which to espouse memorable and thought-provoking insights on a topic whose relevance far outweighs the general understanding of it and its application in the world of wine. Think David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg or Richard Branson.
Business-wise, Cape Wine showed that South Africa appears to be pumping. UK representatives were cutting more deals than a cocaine baron in a Bogota hacienda, with many confirming a growing interest among consumers for Cape wines priced 10 pounds and over. Although, supermarkets said, their demand for bulk-wine is going nowhere but up, the very issue of sustainability forcing them to ship big and bottle on the other side. Yoshiko Takahashi, a wine dynamo from Japan where she also consults for Wosa, showed nothing but optimism in overdrive for the future of South Africa her homeland which has 45m wine-drinkers.
They want it all – Pinotage and Chardonnay, Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Shiraz, and with the mature nature of the consumers back there, are willing to pay top-dollar. The Springboks’ Rugby World Cup victory in 2019, out east in the Land of the Rising Sun, established a presence and awareness of South Africa that had never before existed, and the time is now.
Being part of the experience was a jolt to the system, that calling that says “we can do this”. But as Cape Wine showed, we actually are doing it right very now.
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